Tuesday, February 09, 2016

End, Don't Extend, Draft Registration

This past week demonstrated with blinding clarity that 1) Republicans, contrary to their rhetoric, oppose individual liberty, and 2) the establishment news media really couldn't care less about the presidential candidates' views.

After the last Republican debate, the media continued its obsession with the reality-TV and horse-race sides of the election. News readers, correspondents, and "analysts" droned on about Marco Rubio's robotic repetition during the debate and the insult swaps by Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. You had to read the cable channels' "news tickers" running right to left along the bottom of the screen to find out that at least some Republican candidates think young women should have to register with Selective Service in case the military draft is reinstituted. On CNN, at least, this story was not deemed worthy of further attention.

Which is more important? Rubio's short-term memory problem, the Trump-Bush mud-wrestling match, or registration for the draft?

Here's a clue: the draft is slavery. It is short-term slavery at best, but it's possibly debilitating and even fatal. Thus registration with Selective Service is -- surprise! -- registration for possible enslavement. Anyone who supports individual liberty against state power would oppose conscription. This is no close call.

The draft ended in 1973 during the Nixon administration. (Classical-liberal economist Milton Friedman played a key role in its demise.) In 1980, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation requiring 18-26-year-old men -- but not women -- to register with Selective Service, supposedly as a signal to the Russians that Carter had noticed their invasion. But the draft was not revived. (We later learned that the Carter administration helped to provoke the invasion by aiding jihadis, hoping Afghanistan would be the Soviets' "Vietnam." The 9/11 attacks were blowback from Carter's operation, and Afghanistan would become America's second "Vietnam.")

Ronald Reagan, Carter's opponent in 1980, criticized draft registration on grounds that it "destroys the very values that our society is committed to defending," but in office Reagan changed his mind because "we live in a dangerous world."

According to Selective Service: "Failing to register ... is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 or a prison term of up to five years, or a combination of both." (Counseling "another to fail to comply ... is subject to the same penalties.") Failing to register can also result in loss of government benefits, such as student aid, federal jobs, and job training. 

With military combat roles now open to women, the question of extending compulsory draft registration to them has come up. The New York Times reports that "the Marine Corps commandant, the chief of staff of the Army and one of the top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee [Claire McCaskill] said ... that women should be required to register. Two days later, two Republican members of the House who are military veterans -- Duncan Hunter of California and Ryan Zinke of Montana -- introduced legislation that would require women to register."

That set the stage for the question at the Republican debate. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie endorsed compulsory registration of women. Christie, strangely, said not forcing women to register constituted discrimination against them. Bush said he did not expect the draft to be resumed, but hastened to add that he opposed ending registration.

The remaining candidates said nothing. No one objected to registering women. More revealing, no one called for ending draft registration for men. The candidates of the party that insists it alone favors liberty and limits on government power favor draft registration!

Few people call for a new draft; military leaders reportedly oppose conscription because it fills the armed forces with people who prefer to be elsewhere. So why continue draft registration? The usual answer is that it would promote readiness in an emergency. But that is no reason to violate liberty. The practical value of a quickly dated list of registrants is also doubted.

Some misguided people will argue that if men must register, then fairness dictates that women must register too. It's an odd notion of fairness or justice, however. Compulsory draft registration is unfair because it violates young people's rights. Therefore, extending the unfairness cannot be fair. The only fair measure would be to abolish registration and never draft anyone again.

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Societyand a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a patron today!

Monday, February 08, 2016

Again?


The Distinguished Woman Stumping for Hillary Clinton



President Bill Clinton later promoted Madeleine Albright from ambassador to the UN to secretary of state, the first women to hold the office. While speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton recently, she said "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other."

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Clinton's Wall Street Red Herring

In response to Bernie Sanders's stigmatizing her as an establishment candidate who takes big bucks from Wall Street, Hillary Clinton challenged Sanders to show that she ever changed a vote or a position because of a campaign donation or speaker's fee.

That's a red herring.

Sanders's concern presumably is not that she was or is for sale, but that Wall Street operators see her as already friendly to their interests. If so, they did not need her to change her position or disposition. Rather, they like what they see and want her in charge.

For some reason, Sanders is reluctant to go in for the kill. Maybe he's not very sharp on his feet.

Friday, February 05, 2016

TGIF: Justice, Not Amnesty, for "Illegal" Immigrants

It speaks volumes that the dirtiest word in the Republican and conservative lexicon is amnesty. At a minimum, it exposes as a flagrant lie the claim that Republicans and conservatives want to expand liberty and limit government power. One cannot consistently praise the principle, central to the supposedly beloved Declaration of Independence, that "all men [that is, persons, not only Americans] are created equal" while also demanding that the government control some people's freedom to move.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Cruz and Rubio: Heirs to Bush-Obama Militarism

I see no point splitting hairs over whether Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio is the more egregious warmonger. Both love the bloody and costly U.S. empire. Both believe in American exceptionalism. (Rubio arrogantly calls for a "New American Century.") Both want to make war in the Middle East (and beyond) and "stand behind Israel," though such policies provoked the 9/11 attacks. Both want to pour money into the military, as though America were militarily threatened. (The U.S. military budget equals the budgets of the next seven highest spending nations.) Both want to prevent detente with Iran, which poses no danger. Both hype terrorism as an existential threat. Both want the government to spy on Americans, especially Muslim Americans. Both want to "control the border," code for violating the natural right of people to move freely and make better lives without government permission.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

TGIF: The Bill of Rights Revisited

Drawing on work by historian Gordon S. Wood, I recently suggested that we see the U.S. Constitution not as a landmark in the struggle for liberty, but rather as a move to introduce elements of monarchy and aristocracy into an American political system that had become too democratic -- among white males with property -- for America's upper crust. As Wood wrote in Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic: 1789-1815, "Benjamin Rush [a signer of the Declaration of Independence] described the new government in 1790 as one 'which unites with the vigor of monarchy and the stability of aristocracy all the freedom of a simple republic.'" But is that union actually coherent?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trump & the Conservative Establishment Deserve Each Other

No one should need National Review's advice to steer clear of Donald Trump. For one thing, the messenger is a curious one indeed. Although Trump doesn't talk like a neoconservative Wilsonian, he has not cleanly separated himself from that faction either.